A telephone rings shrilly outside the Villa Di Roma Restaurant as a familiar voice answers the call in the short teaser trailer. The voice is that of Joe Pesci, one of the finest American actors to have lit up the screen in such classics as Raging Bull, Goodfellas and JFK. His intonation of the simple word “hello” is strong, assured and with a slight hint of a swagger coming through. That one word welcomes all cinemaphiles to the next Martin Scorsese directed film, The Irishman, a story based off of the Charles Brandt true crime book, I Heard You Paint Houses. The movie studies the life of a Mafioso hitman by the name of Frank Sheeran who befriends controversial mafia-enmeshed Teamsters leader Jimmy Hoffa only to supposedly assassinate him at the behest of Pesci’s crime boss, Russell Bufalino.
Set to premiere later this year in theaters and on Netflix, this long gestating project stars Al Pacino as Hoffa and Robert De Niro as Sheeran and also features a bevy of acting talent that is impressive to ponder: Harvey Keitel, Anna Paquin, Ray Romano, Bobby Cannavale and Jesse Plemons.
2019 is shaping up after a sluggish start to become one of the more exciting years for Hollywood in years. Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time In…Hollywood has led the charge with big screen gambles that at one point in movie history were much more common than they are now (think Boogie Nights, The Matrix, The Blair Witch Project, Memento and A.I. as films within the last twenty years or so to walk away with a creative lustre that is almost unknown today). In that regard it seems as if Scorsese’s The Irishman plans on taking Tarantino’s forward pass and race for a cinematic equivalent of a football touchdown.
The Irishman is notable not only for its crime drama plot – harkening back to such Scorsese classics as The Departed, Goodfellas and Casino – but also for the reunion of two acting giants Pacino and De Niro who have not acted together since 2008’s Righteous Kill. For those of a particular generation, these actors loomed large in the 1970s and 80s, and for any up and coming actor the highest praise that could ever be heaped upon their shoulders was a comparison to one of the two. The chance to see them once again chewing up dialogue and scenery with one another is too good to resist.
Another level of excitement comes from the first ever pairing of Pacino and Martin Scorsese. Let that sink in as you look with disbelief at that particular sentence. Al Pacino and Martin Scorsese have never worked together before The Irishman. These are two top masters of their respective games whose collective works make up some of the strongest fiber in the tapestry of Cinema: The Godfather, Taxi Driver, Dog Day Afternoon, After Hours. It seems inexplicable that this pairing has never existed prior to 2019 and the fact that De Niro, Pesci and Keitel are along for the ride is the cherry on top for anyone whose DNA is entwined with the 1960s and 1970s Golden Age of Hollywood and maverick filmmakers.
The trailer as released the other day is everything you would want it to be: intelligent, loud, brash and singular in master director Scorsese’s vision. It’s also got an army of lookie-loos attempting to discern just how authentic the de-aging VFX techniques used on its central cast really is. Answer: Pretty damn convincing and I would wager that after the first few seconds of this particular novelty had worn off most curiosity seekers stuck around to enjoy and appreciate a well pieced together trailer.
Martin Scorsese is a director who has always pushed the envelope in his filmmaking and it’s a testament to his versatility that The Irishman will receive not only a theatrical release but also an almost simultaneous in-house residence on the streaming platform that is releasing the film in the first place, Netflix. It’s an interesting marriage between a period epic crime piece and a relatively new platform for audiences to view their movies – digital streaming. There has been some controversy among people in the industry (many of whom I respect) regarding the future of movies when yoked up with streaming services and whether these should be blackballed from more traditional awards shows such as the Oscars. To those timid souls I would ask only that they view from start to finish the dynamic teaser trailer for The Irishman. This appears to be one movie that will transcend that debate (much like Roma last year) and the proof is in the two minute trailer that knocked my socks off. See you at the Oscars, Mr. Scorsese.